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7 Aug, 2023 07:42

West Africa unprepared for intervention in coup-hit Niger – WSJ

Regional bloc ECOWAS needs more time to build military strength, a source told the outlet
West Africa unprepared for intervention in coup-hit Niger – WSJ

Members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are not ready to stage a full-scale intervention in Niger, where a military junta has seized power, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing sources.

Last month, ECOWAS, a regional bloc comprising 15 countries, issued a seven-day ultimatum threatening military action against Niger’s plotters if they did not reinstate deposed President Mohamed Bazoum. The junta, however, refused to back down.

The deadline for the ultimatum passed on Sunday with no sign of any armed intervention or mobilization in countries bordering Niger.

Speaking to the WSJ, an unnamed senior commander from one of the ECOWAS countries signaled that the bloc was still unprepared for a full-scale operation. “For the moment, we need to build up the strength of our units before taking part in such a military action,” he said, adding that its success hinges on good preparation.

The delay also comes as Burkina Faso and Mali, two regional countries led by juntas, warned that any military intervention in Niger “would be tantamount to a declaration of war” against them.

Against this backdrop, the commander told the WSJ that ECOWAS would continue to squeeze the junta in Niger with economic sanctions while seeking to extend the trade embargo by asking other international bodies such as the African Union to get on board with the restrictions.

The coup in Niger took place on July 26 when the presidential guard detained Bazoum and his family, sparking international condemnation, including from the US, France, the EU, and Russia. Meanwhile, Colonel Amadou Abdramane, a spokesperson of the group that took power, said the coup had sought to “put an end to the regime that you know due to the deteriorating security situation and bad governance.” The junta’s transitional government is now headed by General Abdourahamane Tchiani, who has been the chief of the presidential guard since 2011.

With regional tensions rising, the Nigerien junta vowed “to stand and fight” against any possible intervention while closing the country’s airspace “until further notice,” and vowing that any violation would be met with a “vigorous and instantaneous response.”